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Stroke Survivor Offers Encouragement to Others

Posted by Lynn Bronikowski Feb 13 2018

Stroke survivor Dick Buckman affixes his hospital badge to his clothing as he gets ready to make his rounds at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans.

Each week he visits seven to 18 stroke patients to share his story, hear their stories and offer encouragement to those who are going through what he experienced in 2002 when he had a stroke during back surgery.

“I’m kind of a cheerleader,” says Dick, a 74-year-old retiree. “Just by seeing my example and what I can do can be reassuring to stroke survivors and their families. I’ve always been a giving person; my parents were that way and I inherited that from them.”

Buckman has been visiting stroke survivors and their families for nearly 10 years—since moving back to his native New Orleans from Raleigh, N.C. when Hurricane Katrina struck.

“We were so sad to see what happened to New Orleans that we moved back and decided to renovate a couple of the flooded houses in the area. It was a good experience,” says Buckman. “It was wonderful to come back; all of the family was here.”

Buckman, a former Army captain with the Judge Advocacy General’s Corps, had moved with his wife, Katherine Latter Buckman, to Raleigh to become the first director of the Jewish Community Endowment Foundation where his background as a lawyer often came in handy.

He experienced two transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) over the course of 10 years and in 2002 awoke from eight hours of back surgery to find he couldn’t talk. He had experienced a stroke caused by a patent foramen ovale (PFO)—a hole in his heart that sent clots to his brain. Six months after his stroke, his leaking valve was repaired in a Charlotte hospital.

“It was a tough time, the worst thing I had ever experienced. I couldn’t speak and was very belligerent,” recalls Buckman. “But fortunately I had good speech and physical therapists and within six to nine months I was able to speak again.”

He was placed on medical leave by the foundation and nine months after his stroke was able to return to work.

Today, as he makes his rounds at Touro, Buckman spends about a half-hour with each patient, returning to the hospital the next day if he needs more time with them.

“It’s just so fulfilling to me personally to counsel with them because I know how important it is for a stroke survivor to see another stroke survivor,” says Buckman. “And I think it’s even more beneficial to have the family around when I visit.

“It’s wonderful to serve this hospital and this community. All stroke patients are different and you never know what stories you’ll run into.”

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